SAN JOSE – Perhaps it was the fear of embarrassment that served as a third period motivator.
No one would ever admit in the Sharks’ dressing room that a game against the Oilers should be an easy two points, but Edmonton’s 1-10-5 mark entering Thursday’s game at SAP Center along with a head coaching change earlier in the week certainly suggests that the Oilers won’t be making a playoff push any time soon.
Considering that Edmonton’s one win over that span came against San Jose on Dec. 7, the Sharks might have found themselves the butt end of some jokes for the next little while had they dropped a second game to the worst team in the league, even though they came in having won seven of their last eight.
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Rather than succumbing to the Oilers, though, third-period goals by Matt Tennyson and Barclay Goodrow earned the Sharks their seventh straight home victory, 4-3, and with an 8-1-0 mark in their last nine, they remain one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
“You can't think about that,” Tommy Wingels said of Edmonton’s recent record, including its win over the Sharks less than two weeks ago. “They're playing desperate right now. When you go through a coaching change, I think pretty much everything's on the table when an organization goes through something like that. That being said, we're worrying about our game and winning hockey games.”
The Sharks trailed 3-2 after the second period, and were getting outshot by Edmonton 21-17 after 40 minutes. Their third period game, including outshooting the Oilers 13-7, was much cleaner than their effort through two.
Todd McLellan cautioned on Thursday morning that he expected his team to get better as the night wore on, after having off since Saturday.
“It took us awhile. It certainly did,” said the coach. “After two periods I didn’t think we were assertive at all. They were winning the puck-to-the-net and the battle-in-the-blue-paint game quite easily, to tell you the truth. We weren’t very happy with that. We had to pick it up in that area.”
The goals came from surprising sources. Tennyson’s marker was the first of his NHL career, tying the game at 3-3 on the power play with 11:31 to go in regulation. Just 34 seconds later, it was Goodrow who got open at the offensive blue line, took a tape-to-tape pass from Brent Burns and skated in alone on net.
At first, it looked like Justin Schultz would be able to nullify Goodrow, who was a bit flat-footed when he received the pass. Instead, Goodrow found a way to hold him off and push it by Ben Scrivens for the game-winner.
“I didn’t have any speed when I got the puck so I figured one guy would end up catching me,” Goodrow said. “I just tried to fend him off as best I could and the goalie slid over a bit so I thought I’d have a bit of room on the far side. I’m lucky it went in.”
One of the keys to the Sharks’ success during their surge has been depth scoring, and that was on display against the Oilers. Along with the third period goals, James Sheppard’s second period marker ended a 17-game drought for the third line center on a great setup by Goodrow, while fellow third liner and rookie Melker Karlsson tallied a pair of assists.
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That energizes the team, according to McLellan.
“I think that guys are excited for them. You can feel it on the bench,” he said. “They’re happy because the team is winning but they’re also happy that those young guys are growing right in front of them.”
Goodrow said: “I’m just trying to play my game right now. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable over the last couple games and the homestand here. I thought I played a lot better. As a line we’re looking to get better every game, and I think the chemistry is building and we’re able to help the team even more.”
The Sharks will now begin a difficult stretch over the next three weeks, including three games against the Blues, two vs. the Ducks in Anaheim, and one each against division rivals Los Angeles and Vancouver.
Easy or not, pocketing a pair of points against lowly Edmonton will allow them to confidently prepare for what lies ahead.
“We [weren't] at our best, but we found a way to win again,” Logan Couture said.